Shaun Cole


Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

Truly taking the time to understand the person or company you are targeting as a prospective customer can help you to learn their trigger points – something that immediately causes the person to want to work with you. Trigger points may require a little research, but the rewards can be out of this world.

The story of the blonde and the coffee

It was another busy afternoon at Ideafuel when I received a sales call from an enthusiastic young woman. I agreed to a short meeting with her at our Lincoln studios. A few days later, the woman arrived with a coffee in her hand, passed it to me and said: “A cappuccino with two sugars – that’s right, isn’t it?”

I was gobsmacked. She had taken the time to research exactly how I liked my coffee by reading my posts on Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result of her using this trigger point, I gave her much more of my time than I had originally planned – and she made the sale.

One woman did her research well enough to pick up Shaun his coffee preference, which in turn led to a sale.

One woman did her research well enough to pick up Shaun his coffee preference, which in turn led to a sale.

It only cost £23

At Ideafuel, we frequently use trigger points to help our clients make their marketing campaigns ultra-targeted.

For example, a firm of debt recovery specialists wanted to contact the financial directors of prospective organisations. From our research, we found that receptionists often put obvious marketing materials straight in the bin. We clearly needed to do something to trigger these receptionists into passing the materials on.

So we sent each prospective company a leaflet and a cheque for £1. These cheques were passed on to the FDs because staff in the accounts department didn’t know how to process a £1 cheque that didn’t marry to an invoice.

From the first batch of around 600 letters – nearly half of the companies agreed to a meeting with the debt recovery company when it followed up the letters with a phone call.

And, get this: only 23 of the £1 cheques were cashed!

Top five tips to understanding trigger points

Trigger points don’t have to be complicated – here are five easy ways to understand them.

Do your research
The coffee example shows how a little research can go a long way when it comes to finding out someone’s trigger points. Research your potential customers and find out their likes, dislikes and responsibilities – then apply this knowledge to create ultra-targeted marketing campaigns.

Make it timely
Remember how the TV channels on Boxing Day used to be filled with holiday adverts? After the excitement of Christmas is over, people usually want something fun (and warmer!) to look forward to. This is a perfect example of companies applying timely trigger points.

Target the right people
In planning our campaign for the debt recovery company, we understood that the first people we really had to target were receptionists, even though they weren’t the main intended recipients. Think about who else will see your marketing message and how you can influence them.

Don’t forget the details
If the coffee given to me by the enterprising woman had only had one sugar, I would have been less impressed and she might not have made the sale. It was her accuracy and the fact that she had obviously taken the time to research me that really stood out. This shows how the slightest of details can truly make the sale.

Call to action
It is essential that a potential customer is encouraged to do something after receiving targeted marketing, whether that’s to call you for more information or to expect a call. Don’t let your efforts go to waste!

Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

I always pore over the marketing strategies of super-successful businesses to see what it is they’ve done to build such large brands, and to see if we can apply any of these lessons in the work we do.

Starbucks is a phenomenal success story. It started life as a Seattle coffee bean roaster and retailer in 1971, and now has more than 20,000 outlets in 64 countries, according to its Wikipedia page. On average, Starbucks opens two new stores every day, and you don’t build a business of that size without having a brilliant marketing strategy and structure to support and sustain growth.

I’ve cherry-picked a few of the things that I think Starbucks’ marketing does very, very well.

Getting personal with customers
If you’ve been to a Starbucks recently and ordered a drink, you’ll know the staff always ask your name – which they write on your cup. When this initiative was launched in the UK in March 2012, there was a bit of a backlash at first because it was seen as too American and not very British. It did make me laugh that customers gave names ranging from “Tax Dodger” to “Ivor Biggun” though!

Once all the fun died down, a lot of regular customers actually loved the fact that the staff at their local Starbucks remembered their names. And you only have to do a quick Google search to see how many customers have shared pictures of their cups on social media.

Adding value
In my role, I’m on the road a lot, attending meetings and appointments. If I have time between them, I’ll always make a beeline for a Starbucks because I know I can access the free WiFi. This allows me to have a coffee, and maybe a cheeky cake, whilst cracking on with work. That little bit of extra value beyond the fare of coffees and cakes keeps me going back again and again.

Clusters of coffee shops
I didn’t realise this until I researched it, but part of Starbucks’ marketing strategy is to hit a new territory hard and open a few coffee shops there – often in very relatively close proximity to one another.

This is very clever, because it creates the impression in consumers’ minds that “they’re everywhere”, and this omnipresence often both compels consumers to use the stores, and validates the decision because they’re so accessible.

Great word of mouth
Word-of-mouth recommendations are a cornerstone of Starbucks’ marketing strategy, particularly when new stores are launched. I was flabbergasted to read that the marketing budget can be as little as 1% of Starbucks’ spend on advertising – which goes against the conventional wisdom of a figure much closer to 10%.

As a joined-up strategy, clearly points one and two play a key part in this as part of a process of building up a customer base of loyal fans.

Great offers
The words ‘Starbucks’ and ‘offers’ aren’t words you’d typically associate with one another. However, when the stores do them, they do them very well indeed.

The offers are usually focused around new products and done in a very engaging but understated way, which often makes a customer feel like they’re in on something that not everyone else knows about. And, let’s face it, all of us consumers feel like we’re “in the know” by taking advantage of promotions.Take a look at these great examples of the way Starbucks runs promotions.

Starbucks has proved that it can build a global empire using these marketing strategies, and any business of any size can learn from these great pointers.

Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

With the Lincolnshire Show fast approaching, taking a stand at an exhibition is a great way for a company to promote itself and gain new customers.

Having worked in the exhibition industry for more than 25 years, I can honestly say I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve worked for brands including Revlon, Jack Daniel’s, Rolls Royce and BRIO Toys, and helped them to exhibit all over the world.

Here’s a masterclass of all the things I’ve learnt about exhibiting over the years, distilled down to a few key points that are as applicable to the likes of Rolls Royce exhibiting at the Farnborough Airshow as they are to a new, start-up business exhibiting at a small Local Chamber of Commerce event for the first time.

Here are my top tips to get the most from marketing your business at an exhibition:

The Stand
Your stand is critical in making a first impression that determines whether visitors want to step over the threshold and come to talk to you, so please make sure you get your messaging correct!

I see so many generic, insipid exhibition stands that fail to inspire and engage visitors because they don’t really have a clue what the company is trying to sell them. This is often because exhibition stands are cobbled together at the last minute and firms think they’ve done enough in making sure the stand reflects the brand.

Make sure your stand has:

  • A great layout – a stand should be easy to get on and off – which is why corner stands are the best, as there are at least two entrances. You also need to think about what visitors will do on the stand – bar stools and tables are probably the best options for people if you want them to sit down and chat.
  • Strong branding – use lots of original imagery (not photos purchased from online photo libraries) because it’s important you stand out and don’t look like everyone else.
  • Clear messages – your messages should tell visitors in an instance what you’re offering and how you can help them.
  • A strong call to action – outlining the next steps (such as booking an appointment) is so important in setting visitors’ expectations.
  • Clear contact information – some visitors don’t have time or are a bit shy of stepping onto your stand at an exhibition, so make sure contact details are clear and visible so that visitors can get in touch after the show.

The big idea
In terms of attempts to attract passers-by to walk onto a stand, I’ve seen the lot – from full-size F1 car simulators and full-scale Scalextric sets using 4x4s to clay pigeon shooting, coffee shops, full silver-service restaurants, traffic wardens, street magicians and 3D projectors.

All of these give a real wow factor and really draw people in to take part in an experience, but there does have to be a logical and easily recognisable link between the big idea and what your stand is selling.

The giveaways
Let’s face it, everybody loves a freebie at a show; most people hoover up pens, sweets and anything else that they can easily snaffle. It’s very easy to brand absolutely anything these days, so it’s a great opportunity to put your brand and contact details on things that visitors will keep and therefore can act as reminders for hours, days and even weeks later.

Where possible, you can get very creative with giveaways that reinforce the key messages of your exhibition stand and tie in with big ideas. For example, we recently ordered 2,000 branded packets of sunflower seeds to be hung from a tree and given away at an exhibition where the client was promoting ways to help people grow their businesses.

Staff on the stand
Make sure that everyone who works on the exhibition stand smiles. I see so many company representatives who look like they would rather be anywhere else than on their stands. Staff on stands who are not welcoming are the biggest barriers to visitors. In the same vein, I can’t abide it when I see staff sat down. It just looks wrong and it really puts people off coming onto the stand.

A reminder of these cardinal sins should be a key part of any briefing session, which, in itself, should be a prerequisite of preparations for exhibitions.

Don’t do the hard sell
I still can’t decide which is worse: staff who don’t smile on an exhibition stand or staff who use very aggressive sales tactics. Don’t do it. Exhibitions are where you woo prospective customers – not where you try to get them straight into bed!

Re-using the stand
If you’re going to commission a stand, factor in the possibly of re-using it. Well-designed stands should have a long lifespan and should be re-usable in different formats – if you know what you’re doing and how to design them correctly, even the pop-up types can be used time and time again.

Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

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